Fayetteville City Council members are divided on whether to expand terms of office from two to four years. District 7 Councilman Larry Wright broached the idea several months ago. Now the governing body has decided to put the idea to a vote of the people. Mayor Pro-tem Ted Mohn made the motion, which was seconded by Wright. Council has indicated it would abide by the voters’ decision.
Council voted 6-4 to place the “yes or no” issue on the November ballot. If passed, the longer terms of office would apply to the 2019 municipal election. Presumably, the members would serve staggered terms, but the measure did not include that provision. Fifth District Councilman Johnny Dawkins and 9th District Councilman Jim Arp said they do not favor four-year terms, but they voted for the referendum anyway. Members Dan Culliton, Bill Crisp, Kathy Jensen and Tisha Waddell voted against it.
“We’re rushing into this issue,” Waddell said. Crisp said the timing wasn’t good.
The referendum in November will also include a formal resolution asking that the state legislature modify the city charter to allow recall elections. Only the general assembly can do that, but the city has authority to change city council terms of office. Some members wanted to separate the issues, but all seemed to favor the recall provision. It stems from the recent attempted bribery allegations involving recently resigned District 2 Council member Tyrone Williams.
At its recent meeting, city council also debated whether to continue its financial commitment in support of the planned $65 million North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center planned for Fayetteville. New District 4 member, D.J. Haire, questioned the city’s $7.5 million commitment to the foundation funding the center. Fayetteville and Cumberland County governments have pledged a total of $15 million contingent on a commitment from the state as well as millions in private funds already raised.
The foundation asked the city to donate four acres of property abutting the historic Fayetteville Arsenal site where the facility is to be built. Council agreed but will follow up with a property appraisal so that its value can be deducted from the $7.5 million pledge. The 60,000-square-foot history center is planned at the end of Arsenal Avenue in Haymount on the grounds where the antebellum facility once stood. It was destroyed by Union Gen. William Sherman on his march north from Atlanta.
Education is the center’s goal. It will house exhibits, classrooms and research areas for visitors. So as not to be thought of as a museum, the center will not have weapons of war and battlefield depictions. Another dimension of the project is the development of digital educational material for students in all grade levels that can be accessed online, in the classroom, at home or anywhere in the world.